Local Tibetans have been beaten and arrested for protesting
Armed police have been sent to the township of Akhokri in eastern Tibet to monitor Tibetans who have been protesting against a local Chinese mining project. The residents of Akhokri Township, which is located in Chuchen County in Ngaba, have since been subjected to surveillance and repeated threats of arrest.
Armed police were deployed to the township on 20 May 2016, and since arriving, have made threats through loudspeakers to severely punish anyone caught disturbing the mining project, including with arrests and fines.
The residents of Akhokri have been protesting against the mine since the project started in March 2013. The mining company, along with authorities, officially claimed that it had started work in Akhokri to build a hydroelectric power plant. However, leaks from company employees later revealed the purpose of the operation was to dig a mine.
Once work on the mine started, Chinese workers began digging into a mountain which is sacred to four Tibetan nomadic villages in Chuchen County. Locals also complained of Chinese workers stealing livestock from local Tibetans and hunting wildlife.
The mining was temporarily halted after community representatives and local Tibetan nomads made several appeals to higher authorities. However, on 28 March 2016, Chinese workers reappeared in Akhokri with digging equipment and earth moving tractors. They were accompanied by local authorities and the deputy head of the county police.
Around 200 local Tibetans gathered in response to appeal for an immediate withdrawal. Despite agreeing to withdraw, authorities sent over 80 armed police to Akhokri, who on arrival started to violently suppress the residents.In the ensuing clashes between the police and Tibetans, 20 Tibetans were randomly beaten up by armed police and seven people were arrested, including a 60 year-old man. Those arrested were held for periods ranging from seven to 20 days before being released. A few of the detainees were severely beaten while in police custody.
The protests continue
Responding to the increased surveillance, a Tibetan from Akhokri said: “It's very hard to say whether we can protect the land for long under the suppression of the government or not. Local people are continuously protecting the sacred mountain. Therefore, we are hoping to get the attention of the media that will highlight the actions of the Chinese government to the world. Especially those groups related to environmental protection may support us on this issue to stop it by giving great attention''.
Protests have been taking place across Tibet against mining projects that have been jointly organised by mining companies and the Chinese government. In early May Free Tibet reported on protests by Tibetans in Dartsedo County against a lithium mining company after pollution ruined the water supply and killed fish and livestock. The protests resulted in mining in the area being suspended.